IT TAKES guts, considerable skill and sheer determination to scale a swaying 80ft pine tree to collect five raven chicks, lower them to the ground for leg rings to be put on, and then return safely back to their nest.

But that’s exactly what James Silvey of RSPB Scotland achieved last week in Clackmannanshire, working with Mark Rafferty of the Scottish Raptor Monitoring Group and local wildlife expert and photographer, Dave Taylor.

Ravens are such charismatic birds, enshrined in our folklore and until recent times, relatively scarce birds in Scotland.

Numbers are now on the increase in some areas, but despite this, we still know little about the movements of ravens and how the young disperse after fledging.

This is why these young Wee County ravens were being ringed, as recoveries of such birds can reveal a fascinating insight into their behaviour. They are also colour-ringed, enabling ornithologists to identify living individuals when closely scrutinised through binoculars.

Such work is perhaps now more pertinent than ever, given that Scottish Natural Heritage has granted a licence for an ‘experimental cull’ of ravens in Perthshire, which has attracted widespread criticism from many conservationists.

This current raven colour-ringing project, now in its fourth year, is managed by Dave Anderson of Central Scotland Raptor Study Group, and he says it is surprising how scant our knowledge is on ravens.

Colour ringing will help identify movements from place of birth to nesting areas, with ravens normally looking to settle down in their third year of life.

Dave said: “They are impressive birds and we still have much still to learn about their behaviour and ecology.

“Ravens are an integral part of our landscape and as such are deserving of our respect.

"We need to know why populations are declining across the uplands and increasing in the lowlands, which seems to be a genuine trend across central Scotland.

"We hope that our study will unravel some of the mysteries surrounding this charismatic bird.”

They are also intelligent creatures. In one experimental challenge it was found that some ravens were quickly able to pull up food hanging from a branch by a string without resorting to trial and error - the irresistible conclusion being that the birds had used logic to solve the problem.

It was a real privilege to hold these young ravens from this Clackmannanshire nest and see them being ringed at first hand.

Hopefully, they will help enhance our understanding of these special birds and the important role they play in our natural environment.